Book Review: Meritropolis by Joel Ohman

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Title: Meritropolis
Series: Meritropolis #1
Author: Joel Ohman
Publication Date: September 8, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult



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Meritropolis #1
Joel Ohman
CreateSpace, September 2014
ISBN 978-1-5001-8960-0
Trade Paperback

From the author—

In Meritropolis everyone is assigned a numerical Score that decides their worth to society and whether they live or die. After a young boy is killed because of a low Score, his brother plots to take down the System.

The year is AE3, 3 years after the Event. Within the walls of Meritropolis, 50,000 inhabitants live in fear, ruled by the brutal System that assigns each citizen a merit score that dictates whether they live or die. Those with the highest scores thrive, while those with the lowest are subject to the most unforgiving punishment–to be thrust outside the city gates, thrown to the terrifying hybrid creatures that exist beyond.

But for one High Score, conforming to the System just isn’t an option. Seventeen-year-old Charley has a brother to avenge. And nothing–not even a totalitarian military or dangerous science–is going to stop him.

Where humankind has pushed nature and morals to the extreme, Charley is amongst the chosen few tasked with exploring the boundaries, forcing him to look deep into his very being to discern right from wrong. But as he and his friends learn more about the frightening forces that threaten destruction both without and within the gates, Meritropolis reveals complexities they couldn’t possibly have bargained for…

Meritropolis starts off well with our introduction to an angry Charley and, within just a few pages, we come to clearly understand why he harbors so much ill will towards the powers-that-be in his society in which survival of the fitest has new meaning. Shortly after, we meet Elena, a young woman who knows what’s about to happen and is devastated by it, aware she can do absolutely nothing to keep the promise she made to her parents, so she does what’s next best, making her sister’s final day last as long as possible. To the citizens of Meritropolis, it’s all about the score, the measure of one’s worth.

“This is our first time to watch someone being put out of the gates, and it’s a little girl. We know what happens to her, but what happens to us? What happens to us if we just watch?”

And then a crime lord named Chappy comes on the scene and shares a few harsh truths with Charley. Not long after, Charley will have a life-changing encounter with the scared but brave little Bree, one that is about to bring him a future he certainly didn’t plan for.

Dystopian stories can be much of the same in the wrong hands but Mr. Ohman did two things that I think give this one a lift. First is his choice to have the focus be on a young man when so many of these novels have young women stars. The other is in having the usual terrible thing that the society does be so immediate and without hope. So often, there’s a bit of a gray area that allows the heroes and heroines to intervene in some way but, in this city, the decisions are carried out very quickly and with no pushback from the people.

This is not the perfect story, by any means, with too many coincidences and Charley’s supposed intelligence doesn’t seem to help him out as much as you might expect plus we don’t learn enough about day-to-day life in Meritropolis, but it’s emotional and thought-provoking with characters I came to appreciate in different ways. Altogether, it works and the ending is full of questions and surprises leading, of course to the second book, Meritorium, which is already available. I’ll be picking it up as soon as I can.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2016.

About the Author

Joel OhmanJoel Ohman is the author of the Meritropolis series –“The Hunger Games meets The Village with a young Jack Reacher as a protagonist”. He lives in Tampa, FL with his wife Angela and their three kids. His writing companion is Caesar, a slightly overweight Bull Mastiff who loves to eat the tops off of strawberries.

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